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35 Years Ago, ‘Three Men and a Baby’ Crushed RoboCop, James Bond, and Arnold Schwarzenegger

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1987 was a killer year for blockbuster movies. This was the year that The Princess Bride dazzled us, that Arnold blew us away in Predator, that Timothy Dalton’s James Bond scared The Living Daylights out of us, and that Robocop told us that there would be trouble. And yet, in this massive year for movies, which also included Fatal Attraction, Lethal Weapon, and freaking Dirty Dancing, one movie used a baby to put all the others in a corner. It was directed by Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock himself, and starred Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson. The film was Three Men and Baby, the highest-grossing movie of 1987. This comedy classic just turned 35 on November 25, and it’s still as hilarious and brilliant as it was all those years ago.

Most of us were either much younger, or literal babies when Three Men and Baby was released. Lisa Blair and Michelle Blair, the twins who played the infant Mary, in the movie are now 35 years old. In fact, Michelle is now Michelle Blair Ontonovich and a mom to two young kids of her own. Time flies like a stork! The movie’s main stars, hot dads, Selleck, Guttenberg, and Danson., are 77, 64, and 74, respectively. And, sadly, director Leonard Nimoy passed away in 2015.

Nimoy’s path to the director’s chair of this instant-classic comedy was all thanks to his successful turns behind the camera on the Star Trek sequel The Search for Spock (1984) and The Voyage Home (1986). In fact, the sci-fi comedy action of The Voyage Home (the one with the whales!) is slightly predictive of Three Men and a Baby. (The Voyage Home also did decently at the box office in 1986.) But how well do you really remember this movie? Here’s what happens.

Peter (Selleck), Michael (Guttenberg), and Jack (Danson) live, work, and play in New York City. They’re presented as generally charming but vapid guys who party a lot and are not interested in committed relationships. Be warned, there are plenty of shots of these ladies’ men ogling women that are very 1987 and not tasteful to 2022. It’s not Animal House bad, but you get it. Anyway, Jack is away for an acting gig, leaving Peter and Michael to handle a package that’s about to arrive. A baby is dropped off at the door, and Peter and Michael assume that’s the package. Only, it’s not. The package is heroin, which some drug dealers come seeking. And so begins a wild, funny ride as the guys start to bond with baby Mary, the drug dealers threaten major consequences if they don’t get their package, and the cops become involved.

Cue the baby shenanigans, which include diaper-changing misadventures, singing sessions, and, of course, the infant peeing on one of the men. There’s also an entertaining chase sequence or two involving the baddies. Nimoy nimbly mines the comedy and lets the one-liners land. Among the most amusing jokes: A woman seems incredulous that Jack is a dad, to which Peter replies, “I realize such a concept tends to negate our belief in a benevolent God, but yes.” And there’s a sweet bit in which Peter reads to Mary, in a calm, soothing voice, from a sports magazine. “The champ caught Smith with a savage left hook…,” Peter intones, prompting Michael to ask, “What are you reading her?” Peter, retaining his calm, soothing voice, replies, “It doesn’t matter what I read. It’s the tone you use. She doesn’t understand the words anyway. Now, where were we?”

Three Men and a Baby isn’t a perfect movie, but revisiting it 35 years later, it’s clear why this film blew away the rest of the competition. It proved so popular that it spawned a sequel, Three Men and a Little Lady. Nimoy did not return, but Selleck, Guttenberg, and Danson did. The follow-up wasn’t a disaster, but the magic was never quite recaptured.

Luckily, the original is still great. It’s also nice to think that when the competition was robot cops, killer aliens, and James Bond, a small date-night movie about three dudes taking care of a baby would become the biggest movie in the world. For those of us who take care of very little ones, or for those who remember when our kids were babies, Three Men and a Baby is a sweet jolt at parental comfort and ‘80s nostalgia.

Where to stream Three Men and a Baby

Three Men and a Baby is streaming now on Disney+.

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